I went to Path of Love hoping that it would help me deal with a constant feeling of mild anxiety that I was experiencing. Whenever I wasn't engrossed in some activity, I felt anxious and I just couldn't seem to shake it.
David Guetta's "When Love Takes Over" (Featuring Kelly Rowland) always reminds me of my Path of Love Experience. Play it as you read along:
There were some obvious contributing factors: I had been ill with Chronic Fatigue for over two years, and although I was gradually recovering, my limited energy and feeling constantly unwell for such a long time was a constant source of frustration. I was also lacking direction generally: it had been about six years since I'd had a full-time job, and I was unsure how to find a new vocation earning money doing something that I loved again, especially with the added burden of illness. I'd been working on several writing projects for years, and was having difficulty committing my limited energy to any one thing sufficiently to bring it to fruition. I was afraid of failure and the feelings of shame and embarrassment it creates for me.
My 42nd Birthday was also coming up, and I had been single for several years with no relationship on the horizon. That alone was depressing enough. I had been studying acting since the beginning of the year to help unlock my suppressed emotions, but didn't particularly want to be an actor. I couldn't see how I could take an acting job anyway given that I never know whether I'll be well enough to turn up to anything on any given day. I missed so many classes due to illness it's ridiculous. Plus the feedback I was getting from the teachers in class suggested I was much too emotionally constrained; which was the reason I was there in the first place.
I heard about Path of Love from a couple of different healing and counselling centres that I visited while doing other courses aimed at unbottling the various emotions that I've learned to push down so well. Anger in particular is one emotion that I pushed down so effectively that I rarely even felt it. I also had a growing awareness that without the personal defense afforded by a functional ability to express anger, I was likely to be left feeling anxious whenever I was under threat.
I also wanted more love in my life. Love is another effective antidote against anxiety, and I wanted to be better able to both express and receive more love. When I asked a friend who had done Path of Love what they got out of it, she said "It was great. I got to this really blissful state." I thought, "Wow... I could use some of that!".
For me, the best thing about Path of Love was the emotional healing that occurred. The 7-day process was conducted largely in silence, with a group of about 25 other participants and an equal number of support staff. We only spoke during sharing exercises to release emotions; the rest of the process was conducted in silence to allow us to work internally by ourselves. And release emotions we did! Over the course of the process I felt, expressed and released anger, sadness, rage, fear, shame, excitement, love, joy, and peace. I dealt with lots of shame and anger that I suspected had been lurking in my psyche for a long time. I was really able to let go and trust the process, feeling loved and supported the whole time. To be able to expose the deepest darkest blackest emotional areas of my life, and to only feel loving acceptance in return from the support staff and other participants was tremendously cathartic. The process was similar in some respects to what I had experienced at Passionately Alive, but longer, deeper, and more intense; and hence more healing and impactful.
I was concerned about how well I would cope with such an intense process given my relatively limited energy, and was tremendously relieved to find that I could participate fully in all the activities with only the exception of one evening when I went to bed early with a headache. Resting in bed every lunch time for about an hour helped get me through, and I didn't suffer much from my usual insomnia so I could get a decent night's sleep most of the time.
My Path of Love was held at a beautiful and comfortable retreat centre in the Hunter Valley, not far from Sydney. Knowing I was likely to be exhausted afterwards, I booked a couple of nights at the Youth Hostel there before driving home. I'd stayed at the hostel before, and knew it was nice and quiet during the day when all the backpackers go out on winery tours. I took my guitar and thought I'd spend some time playing and reflecting on whatever I got from the retreat process. The first evening immediately after Path of Love I turned up to the kitchen in the youth hostel to cook my evening meal, to find it full of women.
In fact I was the only male guest in the hostel that night, with twenty or more women. “We're here for a hen's weekend”, they said. “I suppose you want to use the kitchen. Well sorry, but we've taken over. But don't worry, we'll feed you!”. And so they did... I was getting more love coming my way already.
The next day I was completely wiped out with exhaustion and barely got out of bed. Just outside my room was a little green bird who kept tapping on the window. Give that I just wanted to sleep, this became very annoying and my attempts to scare the bird away were ineffective. After several hours of tap-tap-tap at the window, I lept out of bed in rage and thumped the window so hard that it smashed. As the broken glass tinkled down onto the floor to my surprise I thought “Wow, I've really got in touch with some anger. I've never smashed anything in anger before!”. Rather than feeling foolish and ashamed, I felt proud. Well, I did feel a little foolish telling the hostel staff about the bird and the broken window, but I fessed up, took responsibility for it and said I'd pay for the damage. Path of Love wasn't exactly cheap, and I figured I could just factor the cost of the broken window into the total cost.
All the heavy duty emotional healing and emotional expression work that I'd been doing over the past few years helped me to be in a great position to get the most out of Path of Love. There is no doubt in my mind that learning to unlock the negative emotions that we bottle up is the key to experiencing more love, joy, peace, happiness, fulfillment and aliveness; and less anxiety, stress and depression.
Finding and hanging out with a group of like-minded people through Path of Love has been absolutely priceless and allowed me to feel much more accepting of myself and other people. We are all fundamentally driven by emotions and neglect them at our peril. Path of Love was the next logical step in my own journey of emotional healing and reversing years of emotional repression that go back several generations.
Prior to Path of Love I had been afraid of really committing my limited energy to completing any of the projects I had been working on for fear of failure. Since returning, things have been very different. I immediately threw myself into rebuilding my blog with better software that would allow me to publish my writing more easily, and committed to writing articles containing the ideas that I want to publish. I decided to revamp one of the books I had been working on, and finish a major structural edit on another that I had been putting off for two years. I also decided that if my insomnia continued, I would use the time I previously spent in bed feeling frustrated and unable to sleep writing content for my website or working on one of my books instead. Since then, the insomnia has settled down somewhat.
It's a couple of months now since I returned from Path of Love, and while I've had many ups and downs since then, I recognize that this is part of what it means to feel truly alive. I feel so much less anxious about whether I will succeed or fail, and a greater sense of determination to get my stories and ideas out to other people who will benefit. Since returning I've done several public speaking and storytelling workshops to improve my communication skills, and am now learning everything I can about marketing so I can get my message out to help other people.
Although my physical symptoms of fatigue continue to improve only very gradually, I feel much less anxious and bothered by them. I made a decision about two months before Path of Love that I was physically well enough now to get on with my dream of being a writer and telling my story to help inspire and heal other people. But at the time I felt overwhelmed by everything I needed to do to make that dream a reality, and was paralyzed by fear. Now I feel like I have a new lease on life and feel excited that I'm taking the next step towards my dream on a daily basis.
Path of Love is gradually spreading across the globe. It's an amazing group of people working on spreading unconditional love and acceptance, even of the darkest part of ourselves. That in itself is a healing process. If you're feeling lost, anxious, depressed, uncertain, have lost your way or just want more love in your life, I highly recommend doing the Path of Love.